Shakespeare turns 450!

DSC_0162bb2Although the exact date of Shakespeare’s birth is debated, it is believed to fall between April 23 and 26, 1564. Today, Shakespeare’s 450th birthday will be commemorated around the world, and celebrations will continue through 2016, marking 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy since his death on April 23, 1616.

A few of the tributes marking the 450th anniversary of the birth of the world’s greatest playwright include: an elaborate firework display by The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon that will feature an epic ‘fire-drawing’ depicting Shakespeare’s face; a reciting of every one of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets sponsored by The V&A Museum in London; and the kick-off of the newest interpretation of Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe in London before the show embarks on a two-year world tour, visiting every country on the planet.

Shakespeare is credited with penning 40 plays and 154 sonnets over his lifetime, and they have been translated into almost every language on Earth — including Klingon. From school groups to famous Hollywood stars, it is estimated that Shakespeare’s works are being performed somewhere in the world every minute. The London theatre scene is already buzzing with anticipation for the upcoming appearance of the stars of BBC’s Sherlock series who will each appear in the 2014-15 season: Benedict Cumberbatch will play Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in 2015 while his Dr. Watson co-star, Martin Freeman, will play Richard III at Trafalgar Studios this summer.

 

 

The Queen’s Birthday Portrait

queenA new official portrait has been released in honor of Her Majesty The Queen’s 88th birthday today, 21 April 2014.

The black and white photo was taken by renowned English photographer David Bailey who has previously taken photos of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Beatles, Sir Mick Jagger and model Kate Moss. Bailey, a fan of the Queen, says ‘She has very kind eyes with a mischievous glint’.

The Queen has sat for more than 140 official portraits during her lifetime. She was just seven years old when she sat for her first portrait in 1933, and she sat for her first and only hologram portrait in 2003. The latest photograph, taken at Buckingham Palace in March, was especially commissioned on behalf of the government’s GREAT Britain campaign, which aims to generate jobs and growth through highlighting the UK as a world-class destination for trade, tourism, investment and education.

Queen Elizabeth II was born on 21 April 1926. She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. On the death of her father George VI in 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen at the age of 25. The Queen is the second longest serving monarch. Only five other kings and queens in British history have reigned for 50 years or more. The Queen is set to overtake her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria in September of next year as the longest reigning British Monarch of all time. Queen Victoria reigned for over 63 years until her death in 1901.

The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on a Saturday in June when she is joined by other members of the Royal Family at the spectacular Trooping the Colour ceremony. The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the occasion is marked publicly by gun salutes throughout central London and in Windsor Great Park.

photo copyright David Bailey www.royal.gov.uk

Royal Maundy

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 10.32.56 PMIn recognition of the service of elderly people to their community and to their church, Her Majesty The Queen presents special ‘Maundy money’ to local pensioners in a different UK cathedral or abbey every year at Easter. Since the 15th century, the number of Maundy coins handed out, and the number of people receiving the coins, has been related to the Sovereign’s age: This year, 87 women and 87 men will each receive 87 pence-worth of Maundy coins. Maundy coins still bear the same portrait of The Queen as the first coins issued in the year of Her Majesty’s coronation in 1953.

The Royal Maundy Service commemorates the ‘mandatum’ given by Christ to his disciples at the Last Supper, directing them to love one another. For 800 years, British Kings and Queens have marked the occasion with a symbolic gesture of humility by distributing gifts to the deserving.

The occasion is said to be one of the Queen’s favorite events on the Royal Calendar, and Her Majesty has distributed Maundy on all but four occasions since coming to the throne in 1952. This year’s Royal Maundy Service will take place at Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire, England on Thursday 17 April 2014.

(photo copyright www.royal.gov.uk)

The Queen’s Grocer Opens in Dubai

DSC_0345b.smGrand Opening! Fortnum & Mason will open its first store outside of London on Friday 21 March, 2014. The new 9,400-square foot store is located adjacent to The Address in cosmopolitan Downtown Dubai and situated opposite the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The new Fortnum’s store will offer its world-famous products including tea, biscuits, jam, chocolates, and signature hampers. The Dubai store will also include a tea salon serving classic English afternoon tea and an ice cream parlour.

The official grocer to Her Majesty, the Queen and the Prince of Wales, Fortnum and Mason has been committed to bringing the world’s best food to London since 1707. The company began when William Mason rented a room from Hugh Mason, the owner of a small shop in St James’s Market. Mr. Fortum, a footman in Queen Anne’s household, created a prosperous side business selling used palace wax when the royal household insisted on using fresh candles every night. Using his additional earnings, Mr. Fortnum was able to partner with his landlord and the two opened a small grocery shop in Piccadilly. Throughout the explosion of international trade in London during the early 18th century, they created a unique emporium for goods sold nowhere else. Fortnum’s was in the forefront of introducing the British to the world’s best teas, and it was the first shop in Britain to sell Henry Heinz’ American baked beans. Fortnum and Mason’s famous luxury picnic Hampers were first distributed to Victorian high society for events such as Ascot, Wimbledon, and the Henley Regatta. Today, Fortnum’s distributes close to 120,000 packages around the world each year which include everything from a box of champagne truffles to grand hampers filled with Stilton cheese, Quails eggs and smoked salmon. Afternoon Tea at Fortnum’s has been a tradition since 1926, and on March 1st 2012, Fortnum’s refurbished St James’s restaurant was opened by Her Majesty, the Queen accompanied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.

Two Goats, One Glorious Race!

Goat RaceEvery spring thousands of fans gather along the banks of the Thames to cheer on crews from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge as they go head-to-head in the famous BOAT RACE that has taken place since 1829.

It seems there is a new race in town! Now in its sixth year, The Oxford & Cambridge GOAT RACE is attracting its own collection of fans as goat competitors set off for a dash around Spitalfields City Farm at the same time as rowers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities set off down the Thames.

“Centuries of rivalry, Years of training, TWO GOATS, One Glorious Race!”

The event is all in fun, and all proceeds raised from the GOAT RACE support the collection of animals that live at Spitalfields City Farm in East London. The charity event is filled with other goat-related activities including live music, food & beverages, market stalls, and even a bookie and sweepstakes tent.

Spitalfields City Farm was originally set up by volunteers in 1978 and covers 1.3 acres. The farm welcomes visitors throughout the week, so stop by and meet Bayleaf the donkey, Bentley the goat , a miniature Shetland pony, Kune-kune pigs, ducks, geese and North Ronaldsay sheep. Today, the farm still relies on volunteers to help maintain the farm and gardens, look after the animals and assist in delivering projects.

  • This year’s GOAT RACE takes place on Sunday, the 6th of April 2014
  • Tickets available at: www.thegoatrace.org

Please note: Spitalfields City Farm takes great pride in animal welfare, and ensures that the goats chosen to run the GOAT RACE are in good condition. The “track” is also part of their normal routine, and the goats are free to follow at whatever speed suits them. 

Take a Ride on London’s ‘Secret Tube’

MailRailLocated deep under the streets of London, a 6.5 mile train system known as ‘Mail Rail’ was once used to shuttle post between the capital’s major sorting offices. The railway tunnels have been out of service since 2003, but plans are in the works to re-open part of the network as a new London tourist attraction. 

First opened for service in 1927,  the old Post Office Underground Railway ran a series of fully electrified, driverless trains on its tracks transporting up to 4 million letters every day to six different sorting stations located between Whitechapel and Paddington. The British Postal Museum & Archive was recently given approval to re-open and develop a section of the abandoned tunnels as a new tourist attraction allowing public access to the site for the first time in its history. Visitors will be able to ride as passengers on the miniature trains while learning about the history of the Post Office in a newly created exhibition space. The development will also include an event space for functions and conferences and a Family Zone for children. A major fundraising campaign is currently underway with hopes for opening in 2020.

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Is this the Bed that Launched the Tudor Dynasty?

bed.bFollowing being dismantled and dumped in a hotel parking lot in Chester, England, an old four-poster bed was recovered and auctioned as a ‘Victorian Bed’ for a mere £2,200 (about $3,600). Experts, however, believe that the artifact is the actual bed on which Henry VIII was conceived in 1491 making it valued at around £20 million (about $33 million).

Henry VIII was the second child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and he succeeded to the throne on April 22, 1509. If the bed was created for Henry VII to mark his marriage to Elizabeth on January 18, 1486, the bed may be one of the most important pieces of historical furniture in England.

‘The Paradise State Bed’ is currently on display at Auckland Castle, Durham, England where visitors are presented with all of the evidence and artistic interpretation currently available about the bed’s authenticity.

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